Acting as intermediaries, Qatari diplomats have worked to help bridge the gap and facilitate an elusive agreement between the Islamic Republic and the US.
A top Iranian official has conveyed his appreciation to Qatar after it helped mediate a deal between Tehran and Washington that included the release of billions worth of frozen assets.
In a phone call on Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian thanked his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and praised the Gulf nation’s months-long mediation endeavours, which were made public earlier this month, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Acting as intermediaries between the two sides over the past two years, Qatari diplomats have worked diligently to help bridge the gap and facilitate an elusive agreement between the Islamic Republic and the US.
Qatar’s shuttle diplomacy had helped work towards an agreement to conduct a milestone prisoner exchange that has seen five Americans detained in Iran released on house arrest.
Earlier this month Iran said it had been successful in securing the release of more than $10 billion of funds that had been frozen in South Korea and Iraq for a number of years due to US sanctions.
South Korean media also confirmed the operation to transfer frozen Iranian assets in South Korea to Switzerland’s central bank.
“According to the Seoul Foreign Exchange Market on the 21st, 8 trillion won worth of Iranian frozen funds tied up in Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank were transferred to the Swiss central bank account last week and ready for exchange and remittance,” Yonhap Infomax revealed, referring to Iran’s frozen $6 billion funds.
An official in the foreign exchange confirmed to Yonhap that all Iranian funds may be converted into dollars “in about five weeks.”
The Swiss National Bank plans to exchange the Iranian assets from won to dollars at the Seoul Exchange every business day, before converting it to euros to transfer them to an overseas bank account held by Iran.
The split transfer is taking place in order to protect the domestic foreign exchange market, Yonhap explained.
Responding to the latest developments, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said Washington was “forced” to acknowledge Iran’s rights, Tehran Times reported.
“The release of Iran’s assets comes at a time when the US tries to block them by imposing unilateral sanctions. However, we forced the United States to pay attention to Iran’s rights through our good diplomatic and legal efforts,” he said.
Meanwhile, insider sources told Amwaj.media that Qatar is also expected to cover the expenses associated with the unfreezing of Iran’s assets in South Korea, as per agreements for the potential prisoner exchange.
While authorities in Doha have yet to confirm this particular stipulation, officials have publicly commented on the larger mediation efforts.
Speaking on the latest breakthrough between Tehran and Washington while on an official trip in Singapore, Sheikh Mohammed said “we reached an agreement with the US, becoming the key mediator in the recent prisoner swap deal and in opening financial channels for humanitarian purposes that will help in resolving long lasting issues.”
“A step that we hope will lead to a wider dialogue on the nuclear issue,” he added.
Iran and the US are also reportedly set to conduct the milestone prisoner exchange in Qatar for the first time, according to reports.
If it goes ahead, Qatar would host the exchange for the first time. In previous cases, such swaps between Tehran and Washington were held in Oman, Switzerland, or the United Arab Emirates.
Should the scenario unfold as agreed, Qatar’s intricate diplomacy will have yielded a significant agreement between adversaries whose relationship has been strained over the many years.